I ran for about thirty minutes after I left Candice’s apartment. I actually didn’t know I could run for that long. It’s funny what panic and fear can motivate you to do.
A lot of things were bothering me at that moment. The first was the concern of what the roses wanted with me. The second, had I just killed Candice? The third, how did I kill her? And what exactly was the mark on my index finger? It seemed like the mark was what caused for her to explode like a firecracker.
As I was running, I also debated with myself if I should go to the police. But how was I going to explain where Candice’s body was? How was I also going to explain the black slime all over her apartment? There was no blood, no bones or any part of her left behind that could prove she died there. Was she even human?
While all these questions rattled my mind, I soon realized I was now standing in front of the Catholic Church in the city center. I honestly had no idea how I got there because the whole time I ran I was so engrossed in my thoughts. My legs probably auto piloted their way to the church. I knew that only the pastor and his daughter lived in the white suburban house behind the church building. Through word of mouth, I also knew the pastor’s wife passed away a few years ago.
I hurried over to the house and banged on the door like a mad man. Father Hernandez came to answer the door. The pastor must have been one heck of a poker player because his face remained stoic to the half-naked man covered in black goo and holding a butcher knife at his door step. Lucky enough my b***r had gone down otherwise that situation would have been extra awkward.
I quickly apologized for waking him up and I began ranting about all the things that had happened to me. The pastor held up his hand before I could say much and he invited me in. He took my knife and directed me to the bathroom so that I can bath and clean myself up, which I did. He also gave me a shirt, shoes and a pair of trousers I could wear (church people are so nice).
When I was fully dressed, I went to the kitchen where I found Rebecca who had also woken up, was making coffee while the pastor was seated on one of the chairs next to the kitchen table. After I exchanged quick greetings with Rebecca, father Hernandez gestured for me to sit on the chair to his left.
I will admit at this point I felt calmer so it was easier for me to tell my story. The pastor listened attentively to what I had to say. He didn’t interrupt me or make any micro facial expressions to show that I was talking malarkey. His face was plain as dough (as I said- one heck of a poker player). I told him everything from my walk in the woods where I got pricked, to the roses being in my fridge and then following me to Candice’s apartment.
When I was done, I realized the cup of coffee and biscuits in a saucer in front of me. Rebecca must have put them on the table while I was talking. She had seated to the right of her father and was also listening closely to what I was saying.
Father Hernandez turned to her and said, “Gracias for the coffee sweetheart but I will handle this. You can go and sleep now.”
The frown on Rebecca’s face clearly communicated how she felt about that but she didn’t argue. She got up and left.
“You must think I am crazy but believe me, everything I said is true!” I blurted out.
The pastor smiled at me, “You should drink your coffee before it gets cold.” His husky voice was so calm and collected like that of a golf commentator.
‘He must have been an expert at reading bedtime stories,’ I thought to myself. I placed both my hands on the cup of coffee and took a sip.
“I don’t think you are crazy. In fact I believe every word you just said,” the pastor paused for a moment as he sternly looked at me, “It is a strange world we live in, Señor and most people don’t even recognize it. If all the information you told me is accurate you are probably being haunted by a demonio, a demon.”
“A demon?!” I exclaimed.
“A demon,” he said.
“A demon?!” I questioned again.
“A demon,” he emphasized.
I was shocked. I mean I knew the roses were something supernatural but I didn’t think it was a demon. I thought it was an alien creature of some sort or at the very least, the spirit of my grandmother. She is the only person I knew who loved roses and disliked how I always played in her garden all the while destroying her plants. I thought this was her payback from beyond the grave, so I had assumed the pastor would pray for me so her spirit moves on and I can go back to my apartment. Apparently that was not the case.
“The smell you described and the black liquid you talked about are typical characteristics of demons. For the past couple of weeks I had sensed a strong and ancient evil in this city but I wasn’t sure. But now my suspicions have been confirmed. Bathym, also known as Bathin should be the name of the demon after you.”
“How do you know?” I eagerly enquired.
“Demons have certain traits which they always stick to when they are here on earth. Bathym is a demon well known to possess herbs, plants or flowers if he hasn’t found a human host yet. He is a very powerful demon, one of the seventy two demons of Solomon and for him to be in this world it’s not a good thing for us. The mark on your finger is his sign. I have seen it before. It shows that he has chosen you, Señor. He wants to fully possess you. When you touched the Bible after you were pricked in the woods, you managed to inject him before he fully took over your body. But he left you with some of his power. This power is what’s making the mark on your finger glow. But it’s not possessive power. It is power that gives your finger some form of supernatural ability but also allows the demon to track you. Which means this demon always knows where you are. I am not sure how long this power will stay with you, but after some days or even hours from now it will surely leave.”
The pastor paused as he sipped his coffee before he continued.
“This girl, this Candice you talked about, she was also possessed with part of Bathym’s power but not like you. You have to understand that this is a very strong demon and if it fully possesses someone without that person’s consent, the individual will gradually die because their body and health will deteriorate from constantly resisting the demon’s invasion. So the demon often places part of its possessive power into certain people. This scant amount of power is just enough to corrupt the minds of people and usually turns their eyes black which will make them mere minions of the demon but only for a couple of hours. Since you are now a born again Christian, the power on your finger now works for the good of the Lord and it can remove the evil in possessed people. When you touched the girl with your finger you exorcised the little bit of evil within her but unfortunately you also killed her because of the immense amount of power that mark has. I don’t think you should use the power of that mark anymore because of what it can do to a possessed person.”
“Okay fine, but why is this Bathym after me?” I quickly questioned trying to bury the pain I felt for realizing I actually killed Candice.
The pastor didn’t get a chance to reply because the kitchen door began shaking wildly. Then I smelt it, that unbearable stench. I shot up from my chair and told the pastor about the niff. I think he could smell it too because he stood up with widened eyes and clutched the golden crucifix around his neck.
The door violently swung open and in stepped a lanky man with short wavy black hair and copious amounts of unkempt beard all over his cheeks and chin.
“Didn’t you guys hear me struggling with the door?” he asked with a deep voice. He then stepped back and fervently waved his hand in front of his nose. “Wow it got in here too?! Ha I am sorry guys. That was me. Ooh that smells bad! I farted outside hoping the smell wouldn’t get in here, I am sorry guys I really am,” the man chuckled as he also waved his other hand behind his b**t.
“Joseph! You gave us quite a scare, amigo!” the pastor yelled at the man. “Señor Stanford, this is Joseph, the church’s handyman and person who doesn’t understand this house’s curfew.”
“I am sorry padre. I lost track of time,” Joseph said as he walked into the kitchen. He turned to me and said, “Hi man. How are you doing? You can call me Joe, or Joey or even Jojo I don’t really care,” he laughed as he shacked and squeezed my still smarting right hand.
“Señor Stanford here, was chased out of his apartment by roses which…”
“Wow your landlord is a bunch of roses?! Cool beans!” Joseph interrupted father Hernandez.
“What? No,” I replied as I was amazed by the man’s inanity.
“Are you sure? Because I heard roses have a high level of intellect compared to other plants,” Joseph argued as he took out a bottle of water from the fridge and imbibed the liquid like he just came out of the desert.
“Let me finish, Joseph. I believe the roses are possessed by Bathym,” the pastor sternly explained.
Joseph spitted out the water like it was savor and gnarled, “Oh boy.”
“I just don’t know why he is after Señor Stanford. Usually demons feed on loneliness, fear, guilt, grief and insecurity,” the pastor explicated.
“And virginity,” Joseph added as he eyed me from head to toe.
“I am not a virgin,” I was quick to defend myself. “I have had s*x before. In fact I had s*x tonight, I think. I was naked and there was a used condom on the floor. Anyway, the point is I am not a virgin.”
“Are you sure? You sound like a virgin to me,” Joseph said as he looked at me with one of his eyebrows slightly elevated than the other.
“Look, it’s late. We can figure it all out tomorrow. Let’s all get some rest. Señor Stanford, you are safe here, no demon can enter this holy land. You can share a room with Joseph tonight,” the pastor said as he walked out of the kitchen leaving me with the wide grinning Joseph.
I hardly slept for the rest of that night and not only because Joseph was snoring loud enough to wake the dead but because my mind wouldn’t allow me to rest. It was a lot to take in, what father Hernandez had said to me. I desperately wanted to get on a computer and update my blog about all that had happened to me that night. I had realized writing this blog helped me feel calm. I really needed to feel staid at that moment because of the huge guilt I felt for killing Candice which was making my stomach cringe after every ten seconds.
As soon as the first streaks of sunlight appeared, I got out of bed and searched Joseph’s room for a laptop. When I couldn’t find one, I decided to search around the house for a computer. I found Rebecca in the kitchen already making breakfast. She greeted me with a beaming wide smile and told me breakfast was almost ready.
As always, she looked ravishing and I struggled to hear a lot of what she said to me but I got the gist of some of it. She said her father went somewhere to get something and he will be back in an hour or two or three or four (I didn’t quite get this part). She also said they don’t have a computer or laptop. She advised me there is also no internet in the house. Her father believes it’s a tool for the devil. She however told me she often uses the internet café down the block when she has something she wants to find on the internet.
When she served me breakfast, she must have noticed my gloom because she sat next to me and said, “I am sorry about what happened to you last night. I know you are probably beating yourself up about what happened to your girlfriend but it was not your fault.” I felt the need to correct her that Candice wasn’t exactly my girlfriend but I just let her continue. “That was beyond your control and you didn’t even know what you were doing. You don’t have to worry, my father has friends in the police and he will help you not get convicted.”
Somehow her words helped me relax. I felt that calmness that I had experienced when I got used to Candice. This allowed me to talk and listen to Rebecca more easily. Over the course of about thirty minutes, I had learnt a lot about her. One of the highlights of our conversation was when she told me about demon tracking. She said her father is part of a group which tracks down demons before they fully possess people because exorcisms are harder than what movies lead people to believe. She even complained that her father doesn’t allow her to track down demons with him because he still sees her as a child. She then told me of how she is exceedingly good with a bow and arrow. She also spoke of her vast knowledge of demons and how that can make her a good demon tracker but her father just wants her to be a nun. He was even forcing her to attend nun training classes and made her join an order. Although she was almost done with her training, she didn’t like how it took up all of her choir practice time. I felt pity for her but if I also had a daughter as beautiful, smart and kind as Rebecca, I would go out of my way to keep her safe.
When Joseph woke up and announced that he was going downtown to run an errand, I asked if I could car pull with him to work. Rebecca wasn’t happy about this because apparently her father had instructed her, not to allow me to leave. I then convinced her that I had to check in at work because I was on my final warning but truthfully I just wanted to update my blog and since I didn’t have any money I couldn’t use the internet café she had recommended. I was also way too shy to ask any of them for money. She reluctantly agreed after I told her I will try to be back before her father returns. She gave me a wooden crucifix and said it will protect me from Bathym.
When I got to work, I checked in with the security guards as usual. I was elated to see Jerome; a light skinned black guy with plaited hair was one of the guards on duty. I asked him not to tell Patrick, my boss, that I was around because I didn’t plan on staying for long. I knew I could trust Jerome to come through for me but the other guard, Donald, was different story altogether. Donald was an old man with a bald head, shriveled pale skin, a slim body and eyes which were always half opened making his face constantly look sleepy. I often thought he looked like a tortoise without a shell. Donald was famous for one thing at the company, snitching. I knew he was going to be a problem because his semi-opened eyes were fixated on me the whole time I spoke with Jerome. It was weird how he kept gawking at me as he also flipped pages of the magazine on his lap without looking down at them (talk about the world’s worst spy).
I rushed to my office where I found a little bit of money in my desk drawer which I didn’t remember leaving there. Regardless, I pocketed the money and switched on my computer.
Barely five minutes of typing on my blog, Donald entered my office without knocking and said with a smug, “Patrick wants to see you in his office.”
“Damn it. This is why people get bewitched,” I mumbled to myself as Donald swaggered out of my office. The snitch had sold me out. Despite that, I couldn’t go to see my boss because I never did any of the projects he gave me. I also desperately wanted to finish updating my blog and go back to the church before father Hernandez came back. I really liked Rebecca and I didn’t want to let her down.
So I continued typing on my blog until the man himself came to my office. Patrick as always was smartly donned in a tailor made black suit, white cotton shirt with golden cufflinks and a red tie. “I called you to my office ten minutes ago, Stanford.” I was about to reply when he spoke again, “How come I haven’t received feedback on any of the assignments I gave you?”
“I am still working on them,” I brusquely replied.
Patrick sighed, “That is what you said a week ago…” He went on to give one of his legendary castigating speeches about how I was letting the company, my co-workers and him down.
Up until this day I don’t know what got over me at that moment, maybe it was the stress of being haunted by a demon or maybe it was the guilt of knowing that I had killed someone, I don’t know. But I snapped.
“Just leave me the f**k alone!” I yelled out at him.
His mouth gaped for about a minute as what I said shocked him more than it did me.
“How dare you speak to me like that? That’s it, you are fired!”
“What? You can’t fire me because I quit!” I screamed back at him.
“Well you can’t quit because I just fired you!”
“No, you can’t fire me because I just quit!”
Believe it or not but this ridiculous argument lasted five whole five minutes before I stormed out of the office with two middle fingers in the air. Due to the fact that Patrick kept yelling that I was fired, I walked out of the building screaming that I quit as I tried to hold on to the little bit of dignity that I had left.
I was grateful for the money I found in the desk drawer because that’s what I used to buy me an hour at an internet café a few blocks from the church. The place was barely full. It had about ten people inside. It’s only when I settled down on my allocated computer that I then realized I had left the crucifix Rebecca gave me. There was no way I was going back to that office so I was content with leaving it there.
My assigned computer monitor then went black. I thought the power had gone out until I realized everyone else in the café was still using their computers. Words typed in all caps then appeared on my black computer screen and all the blood in my body turned to ice.
Those two words then disappeared.
‘LET ME IN’, then appeared next.
I pushed back my chair and before I could make a run for it, the words ‘OR ELSE’, appeared on the screen.
Then a video began playing with no sound. It showed someone filming the outside of my parents’ house. My heart stopped when I saw the garden of roses on the front porch of the house. The roses all had red stems and black glinting petals. The person with the camera walked around the house to the kitchen window and the camera focused inside. I could see my parents inside the kitchen going about their business completely oblivious to the camera person on the window. Since they were both retired they usually spent the whole day at home. My mother was humming to herself by the stove while my father read the newspaper as he sat on one of the kitchen chairs. The camera zoomed in on the paper my father was reading and my body shuddered when I realized it was that day’s paper. This meant I was looking at a live feed.
The computer screen went black again. I then watched in disbelief as four roses slid out of from the black screen. The smell that seeped out from the roses was that of a carcass of a dog which died months ago. I screamed and stood up from my chair.
I then noticed everyone else in the internet café was now standing and facing me. Their eyes were black as night and had a red vertical line in the middle. The skin on their faces was wrinkled like it was chewed and spat out by a donkey. I felt my stomach drop because I had no way of escaping. My designated computer was the furthest from the door and all the windows in the café had iron bars.
A scrawny ginger-haired guy was the first to run towards me. I had a split second to debate what the pastor said to me about the mark on my finger. But I had no choice, it was the only form of defense I had. I poked the guy on his forehead with my index finger. His body was instantly ignited with white flames and he exploded like dynamite leaving me awash with black sludge. The second and third person who came for me met a similar fate. It was funny how I was using my finger like sword. However, when I tried my one fighting move on the fourth person, it didn’t work. I then realized the glow of the mark on my finger had gone out. This probably meant I no longer had Bathym’s power within me.
The rest of the possessed people ran and tackled me to the floor. They held me down as I watched in dismay as the roses continued to slither out from my computer monitor and head towards me.
But before the rose petals could reach me, the café doors were kicked open and the last person I expected walked in. Patrick stood by the door for a moment as he soaked in all the attention he got from everyone in the café. Even the roses had sheered their petals towards him. Standing at six foot two, with broad shoulders, blue eyes and short curly black hair with whites on the sides, I bet he was used to that kind of attention.
He brought out a large samurai sword from the inside pocket of his suit and with one swiping motion he gashed all four stems of the roses. The roses quickly dried and turned to black slime in a matter of seconds. All the possessed people holding me down, hissed at Patrick. Some charged towards him while the others remained committed to pinning me to the floor.
Patrick took out a pistol, a Glock, again from the inside pocket of his suit which I was bewildered kept all those weapons. He pointed the gun at the ceiling and pulled the trigger. I was expecting the loud bang of the gun to follow but was stupefied to hear the gun making a honking sound like the horn of a clown before it shot out enough confetti to spray everyone in the room.
“You have got to be kidding me,” I muttered to myself.
Within seconds, all the black-eyed people in the café screamed in agony. I realized as soon as the confetti landed on them, white flames lit up in all their eyes before they barfed out black slime and collapsed to the floor. They didn’t explode like Candice or the three people I touched with my index finger.
Patrick marched towards me. He threw at me the wooden crucifix Rebecca gave me and said, “You can’t quit because you are fired.” He then sauntered out of the café leaving me mystified.
I slowly got up and looked over at my computer screen. The video was back on. My whole body stiffened as I watched the roses which were on the front porch gliding towards an open window of my parents’ house.